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The Wheel's Still in Spin

David J Douglass
978-1-873976-36-4
480 pages
Christie Books
1 May 2009
Paperback
£12.95

David Douglass was a pitman for 40 years in the coalfields of the Tyne and in South Yorkshire. This book, the second in his trilogy Stardust and Coaldust, deals with the period from the end of the 60s to the coming to power of Thatcher. In this 15 year period, dramatic events in the world revolution course around the globe. Dave Douglass transports us back to a time conventional histories have tried to forget or bury or rewrite. It is political and social history told by a direct participant in the events and not from some distant hill of academic neutrality. It has deep and insightful cameos of pit work and the recent history of the Miners Union.

The decade and a half between the end of the ‘60s and the rise of Margaret Thatcher witnessed a massive and global revolutionary upsurge. In part, this was symbolised by the almost impossibly heroic struggle of the Vietnamese people against the naked Imperialism of the USA. Off the shore of the mass empire of capital little defiant Cuba sat within spitting distance. Nationalist struggles and class struggles rocked the world, liberation and resistance movements joined with the blowing winds of change. Within the belly of the US beast, the civil rights movement and the armed wings of class and racial justice were emerging to challenge the status quo in their own backyard. In Europe the urban guerrilla lived not in the evergreen but among the concrete jungles of downtown cities and finance capitals, as the Red Army Fraction, the Red Brigades , First of May and the Angry Brigade pockets of armed red resistance began to bring the rebellion home. In Ireland, the Provisional IRA was beginning its long war against the British state, winning increasing authority among the oppressed occupied population of Ulster. In Scotland, in Wales, even in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland, armed teams prepared for the coming decisive clash which would seek to smash the United Kingdom state. In Britain, the biggest industrial challenge since the 20s was afoot as unions and wildcats unleashed the greatest number of strike days since the General Strike. Within the unions and despite the unions the rank and file sought to stamp its control on work and unions and communities. The National Union of Mineworkers which someone was to call the ‘shock troops of the TUC’ presided over the rise of the flying picket, and mass ‘secondary’ action, which would take a government by the balls. For a time it looked like the labour movement would take the whole system by the throat. Dockers,building workers , struck and fought toe to toe against scabs and police. Rent strikes ,occupations, work-ins, and mass demonstrations posed old ideologies and old common wealth solutions of co-operation and solidarity. All of these movements, tendencies and ideologies overlapped, inter-bred, and formed a loose but comprehensive movement. The Wheel was surely in spin, and there was no telling whom it was naming. This volume told through the perspective of one its working class revolutionary activists, explains the history as viewed from the ground and a number of those turning points and crossroads. David Douglass, a long time coal miner, union activist and revolutionary joins up the dots, along with some telling insights into the hidden world of underground labour in its harsh and gritty reality. Throughout the whole story the air of sexual freedoms, which broke free of constraints in the previous decade survive and prosper. This is a time, when the world was up for grabs, the earth resounded to the world revolutionary impulse. The genii were free from the bottle, and the music was up loud. From where we all stand now, that distant period seems dim and becomes dimmer with every new law and every new brick successive governments have placed on the wall. Soon, they hope, no-one will remember how close we came, to finishing with the whole scumbag system of greed , priviledge and power.

Don’t speak too soon for the wheels still in spin
and theres no telling who that its naming
for the loosers now will be later to win
and the times they are a changing.

 

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